Jordan Peele’s directorial debut is a phenomenally original horror-comedy that carries a very real political commentary and message about our society.
The film details Chris’ (Daniel Kaluuya) first visit to his girlfriend Rose’s (Allison Williams) parents’ home. Initially weary of how the white family may react to their daughter bringing home a black boyfriend, he arrives with a sense of trepidation, but his worries seem to be eased with the warm welcome he receives. However, soon he begins to notice the strange behaviour of those around him, and increasingly worrying occurrences that culminate in a discovery worse than his nightmares.
The premise sets up a brilliant mystery-horror-thriller, but also a film that ridden with commentary about racial tensions, especially in America. The brilliant thing is, Peele manages to succeed at both really successfully. It is a nail-biting horror that will have you holding onto your seat and possibly squealing. It has moments of hilarity mostly provided by Chris’ friend Rod (Lil Rey Howery). Finally, it is a biting portrayal of political and racial tensions. This is introduced immediately by Chris’ weariness of meeting his white girlfriend’s parents, asking ‘do they know I’m black?’ – showing the significance of race on opinions and acceptance. It is then further perpetuated as an institutional matter, when Rose is pulled over whilst driving, but Chris is asked for ID (the tension with the police becomes amplified hugely later on in the film).
This is not your traditional horror, in tale, character, or storytelling. There are visually striking moments – the crying face on many posters is bound to become iconic – and the strange behaviours of the certain characters are emphasised through the cinematography. The film is also wildly unpredictable – a huge difference to most of the standard horrors that are churned out at the moment. Even as the mysteries are slowly revealed, you can never guess the next step of what is coming. Even in the film’s final moments (a terrific show of the effects of racial prejudice, or at least our understanding of it), you still aren’t sure which way it will go. It keeps you gripped and enthralled from start to finish.
Under Peele’s strong and unique direction, there is not a weak link in the cast. From seasoned actors like Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford, to Williams and the rising star that is Kaluuya, who gives an unbelievable performance that is sure to cement his position in the film industry.
This is an important film, especially in the current climate (and past climate, if we’re real). As an artistic endeavour it is brilliantly refreshing, strikingly told, and a fantastic film. As a political statement, it excels just as much; by showing things from the perspective of the minority (something that is far too rare in film), it really helps to emphasise the unbelievable inequality and discrimination that still exists in society today.